Bad laws mean workers never win

Malcolm Turnbull has a new top dog for his attack dog, the anti-worker ABCC. Stephen McBurney was an AFL umpire, but he’s about as unbiased as the Collingwood cheer squad.

McBurney isn’t new either, he was an assistant commissioner of the ABCC under John Howard at a time when construction worker deaths peaked – 48 killed in 2006 and 51 in 2007.

Turnbull and McBurney say they want unions to play by the rules, but their rules are designed to make sure workers never win. They don’t even play by the rules themselves.

The rules say people and companies should pay tax, but Malcolm Turnbull hides his cash in the Cayman Islands to avoid tax and 732 of the biggest companies in Australia didn’t pay a cent in company tax. That’s more than 1 in 3 of large companies that don’t pay, 380 (1 in 5) haven’t paid tax for at least 3 years!

According to the rules, the ABCC is supposed to investigate construction companies that use sham contracting. They’re supposed to ban companies who break safety laws. They never have, never will.

Nigel Hadgkiss, the last head of the ABCC, cared so much about the rules he broke the law to pursue his political agenda attacking unions. The same law he was supposed to enforce!

You don’t have to imagine what happens when we follow these broken rules. Sydney train drivers did, and they got screwed. The RTBU followed every rule, ticked every box, jumped through every hoop they were supposed to. It took weeks, they held a ballot and got 94 per cent support from members for stopping work.

The Fair Work Commission stepped in and banned their protected industrial action – not because the union had broken a rule, but because it would inconvenience people getting to work or school. No shit, that’s the point of industrial action. If it didn’t inconvenience anyone it would be useless.

Guess who made the ruling? Jonathan Hamberger, a Liberal Party appointment who was a staffer for Peter Reith who tried to break unions on the docks, and was behind bringing in John Howard’s ABCC.

Head of the ACTU Sally McManus called it out: “The basic right to strike in Australia is very nearly dead”.

Because we don’t play by their rules, we get 5% wages increases in the construction industry. Malcolm Turnbull responded by saying “we will stop that.” 

Playing by the rules isn’t what the Liberal Party wants, they want to destroy unions and strip workers of the little rights we have left.

Our executive has been out meeting members on site and I know there are some that have voted for the Liberals in the past, they’ve told me. People grow up and vote for the people their parents voted for, but we’ve grown up and can make up our own minds. 

I don’t tell anyone who to vote for, but I do tell everyone that Malcolm Turnbull has promised to stop construction workers getting pay rises. 

When I ask people, “what would you call someone who votes for the party that’s promised to cut their wages?” the response is, “they’d be an idiot”. 

It’s pretty simple when you think about it. Getting rid of Malcolm Turnbull isn’t going to be enough though, that’s why our campaign is to Change the Rules. Change the Rules that are designed to make sure workers can’t win.

Change the Rules that mean a Prime Minister who says he’s about ‘jobs and growth’ can spend millions of taxpayer dollars on attacking the wages, safety and conditions of construction workers.

Change the Rules that allow wage theft to be a business model, but ban the unions that recover wages and improve safety.

Join the campaign, I’ll see you on site and on the streets.


John Setka